September 28, 2011

Tribute: Ivan Karp was a major figure in African studies and museum studies

Ivan Karp was a National Endowment for the Humanities professor in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts.

On Saturday, Sept. 17, the Emory community lost a friend, professor and colleague in Ivan Karp.

"Dr. Karp will greatly be missed by all that knew and worked with him," said Dean Lisa A. Tedesco in a message to the Laney Graduate School community. "He was a major figure in many fields and revolutionized the study of African studies, museum studies and public scholarship. He was a dedicated scholar committed to the advancement of graduate education in service of the public good. We are proud to honor his memory and service."

Karp was National Endowment for the Humanities professor in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts (ILA) from 1993 until his retirement this past May.

During his time at Emory, he served as the director of the ILA (1993-96), director of the Institute of African Studies (1996-99) and director of the Center for International Studies (1996-99). He also co-founded and co-directed the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship (1995-2009) as well as the Laney Graduate School's Grant Writing Program (2002-present). With more than 30 years of teaching experience, Karp was also a dedicated mentor to many graduate students, drawing upon his broad interests and vast research experience to oversee and guide students' projects and dissertations.

Karp received many honors and awards during his career, among them: the Marion Creekmore Award for significant contributions to internationalizing Emory (2005); a Rockefeller Foundation Grant to establish the Institutions of Public Culture, a linked program of fellowships and student awards between Emory University and selected institutions in Cape Town, South Africa (2000-08); a Ford Foundation grant in support of Area Studies under the Crossing Boundaries, Cultural Studies and Area Studies Initiatives (1997); a Rockefeller Foundation Grant for a Postdoctoral Center in the Humanities on the subject of Public Scholarship (1996-2000); a Special Award for the Office of the Assistant Secretaries for Museums for research on Museums and the Cultural Imagination (1992); a Rockefeller Foundation-Smithsonian Institution grant for conferences on Museums and Communities and Exhibiting Cultures (1987, 1988); a Rockefeller grant for conferences on Museum Cultures (2006); and many more.

Karp also served as co-editor for the Indiana University Press series "African Systems of Thought" and the Smithsonian Institution Press series "Studies in Ethnographic Inquiry." He served on the editorial boards of Museum Anthropology; African Philosophy; Les Classiques Africaines; Encyclopedia of Sub-Saharan Africa; Encyclopedia of African Religions and Philosophy; Cultural Anthropology; Anthropological Linguistics; Anthropology; and more. 

Prior to his tenure at Emory, Karp served in academic appointments at Colgate University (1972-75), Indiana University (1975-1984) and Catholic University (1984-93). From 1989-91, he served as chair of the Ethnology Division in the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian). He also served as curator of research in anthropology and African cultures at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) from 1984-93. 

Karp is survived by his wife, Corinne Kratz, professor of anthropology and African studies at Emory.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts can be directed to the Ivan Karp Donation Fund. The fund will be used to continue Emory's collaborative work with universities and museums in Cape Town on public scholarship, African studies and Karp's other interests, including social theory and the history of anthropology. For more information on the Ivan Karp Donation Fund, contact Kratz at

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